The anti-gay marriage Summer for
Marriage Tour 2010 rolled Tuesday into Trenton, where the issue of
gay marriage is back in court.
The campaign, sponsored by the National
Organization for Marriage (NOM), the nation's most vociferous
opponent of gay marriage, kicked off last week in Augusta, Maine and
is expected to make stops in 23 eastern cities before docking in
Washington D.C. on August 15.
In Maine, Governor John Baldacci joined
NOM counter demonstrators at the Statehouse. Baldacci signed a gay
marriage law approved by lawmakers last year. But opponents, backed
by NOM, campaigned to put the law on the ballot and voters vetoed the
law in November.
Baldacci is term limited and will move
out of the Governor's Mansion in January.
Maine's next governor will either be
strongly in favor of gay marriage or strongly against it. Democrat
Libby Mitchell has pledged to sign a gay marriage bill, while her
Republican opponent, Paul LePage, says he “supports traditional
marriage” on his campaign website. A July 14 Rasmussen poll found
LePage ahead of his opponent with an 8 point lead.
Over the weekend, the bus tour rolled
into Providence, Rhode Island, where about 175 counter demonstrators
clashed with an estimated 150 gay marriage foes on the Statehouse
Gay activists chanted, “Get your hate
out of our state,” as they attempted to shout down NOM's speakers.
NOM President Brian Brown said the
activists “simply went crazy.”
“I've never seen anything like it,”
he wrote on the group's blog. “The hatred was palpable. It was an
embarrassment to their cause – I only hope the word gets out, so
people can see how nuts they were.”
Lawmakers in Rhode Island have debated
a gay marriage bill for 13 years in row.
A large road block to marriage equality
in the state has been Republican Governor Don Carcieri, who, along
with his wife Sue, is a member of the local chapter of NOM.
Leading candidates for governor –
former U.S. Senator Lincoln Chafee and State Treasurer Frank Caprio –
have pledged their support for a gay marriage bill.
In New Jersey, the issue of gay
marriage is headed back to court after a drive to legalize the
institution fizzled in the state Senate last year. A trio of
back-to-back wins for gay marriage opponents – repeal of Maine's
gay marriage law by voters, the New York Senate's rejection of a
similar measure and the New Jersey election of Governor Chris
Christie, an opponent of gay marriage – persuaded on-the-fence
lawmakers to vote against the bill, despite strong support on the
issue from the public.
The loss prompted gay marriage
activists to return to the state Supreme Court that struck down the
state's ban on gay marriage and paved the way for civil unions.
There was no showdown in Trenton.
Marriage equality supporters instead kept their distance, crowding
into a committee room in the Statehouse Annex.
“Outside is a message of hate and
prejudice,” Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality,
the state's largest gay rights advocate and a leading group lobbying
for passage of a gay marriage bill, said.
About 80 people gathered at the
Statehouse for NOM's rally, the Star-Ledger reported.
NOM President Brown said the tour
stopped in New Jersey because he fears “judicial activism” from
the state's highest court.
“What if Martin Luther King Jr. would
have listened to those who tried to silence and tell him that his
faith has no place in the public square – that he should be
silent?” Brown said. “You are a part of a new civil rights group
– a civil rights group dedicated to protecting the most fundamental
and basic institution known to mankind: marriage.”
Bishop John M. Smith of the Catholic
Diocese of Trenton also spoke to the crowd: “Standing for the truth
of marriage does not deny the rights or equal dignity of human
persons; rather it stands for the rights of husbands and wives.”
The bus rolls into Annapolis, Maryland